Technology is both wonderful and super frustrating for me. I've detailed some of my frustrations with technology in my behind-the-scenes look at my second year in business, so I won't rehash that here.

Suffice it to say that at times I've wanted to throw my computer and Smartphone across the room.

But technology can also be amazing.

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In the last several years, I've been able to play Words with Friends with my 70-something-year-old grandmother (yes, she has learned how to use a Smartphone!), and after the birth of our first child, we started Skyping and Facetiming with her plus my parents.

It's way better than only sending letters!

So I wanted to talk about free resources for you to use to stay close with family and friends who are far away. Because connection is really what it's all about, right?

Free Technology to Connect You and Loved Ones

Here are some of the ways you can connect with loved ones when they're not near:

  • Skype: Skype is a free app you can use on your laptop, computer, or Smartphone, that allows you to call someone via a video. We used this at our baby shower here in Texas. My family up in PA surprised me and gathered at my Mom's house so that we could Skype them in.
  • Facetime: This is like Skype; however, it is only available on Apple products. My brother and his wife used this app to include us on their gender reveal party earlier this year! That was a lot of fun.
  • Rabbit: While I haven't used this one myself, it seems to be a more technologically advanced version of my date for long distance couples. Like Paul, my husband, and I used to do when he was stationed in Japan and I was in college, you can use this app to watch your favorite shows together, collaborate with people, shop for things together, etc. It's a way to interact beyond just talking with video.

Take Your Connections On the Road

The one downside to using your phone for things like a Skype call or Facetime is the amount of battery it uses up. So you generally have to stay put in your own home to do so (especially if your phone + battery are, oooohhhh, over three years old).

So here's another tip: take your conversations on the road. Later this month I am going to the Rodeo here in Houston, and I'd love for my grandmother to experience some of it. At the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, NRG Street Charge® solar-charging stations offer a way for me to re-juice my battery. Pair this with some free wifi, and my grandmother can watch some of the rodeo with me!

But it doesn't end there. NRG Street Charge® solar-charging stations, 12.5-foot towers equipped with solar panels and a bevy of mobile device charging cables, are rolling out across the US and the world.

We live in exciting times. Even though we can be crippled by things like power outages and bad connections, with a little bit of patience and willingness to learn new technology we can stay more connected with loved ones than ever.

* Disclosure: I received compensation for this post from NRG and Reliant.